It’s sorely tempting to build up excitement for little ones on Christmas Eve but, for many parents (including some of us in the Sleep Well team) we just live to regret it. So, with quite a few decades of experience between us, here are our top tips to get your kids to sleep on Christmas Eve and give you some precious relaxation time.
Yes, that old chestnut, but it works. Let them run around outside. The combination of fresh air and exercise will make them tired in a healthy way. Exercise physically tires you out and increases your need for sleep. It also releases endorphins which are the body’s natural feel good chemicals. More oxygen pumping around little bodies and brains also increases serotonin levels, which helps them feel calm and happy. Perhaps you might want to join them 🙂
We obviously want our kids to have treats at Christmas, but don’t let them eat too much sugar. After the initial highs it can make them feel more drowsy. But studies have shown that, like alcohol, the sleep they have will be of poor quality and cause them to wake more easily and more often. Not what you want when Santa is about to arrive! Also, don’t forget that if you’re allowing your child a Coke or Pepsi soft drink, you’re also giving them caffeine and that will definitely keep them awake. One serving of many soft drinks contains as much caffeine as a cup of tea!
If the excitement has meant they’ve only picked at their food during the day, give them a little snack before bedtime. Something that is healthy and not full of sugar or too rich. Going to bed with an empty, gurgley tummy might cause them to wake up again because they’re hungry.
Give them some colouring to do an hour or so before bedtime and make sure they’re not using screens for an hour before sleep. Concentrating on something calming like colouring, will help them wind down. The blue light of electronic devices also fools our brains into thinking it’s daylight. By swapping the tablet or phone for a Christmas colouring in book, or jigsaw, you’ll be giving their brain the chance to gradually relax and realise it’s bedtime.
Having a nice warm bath is relaxing for bodies and minds. Studies have found that having a warm bath around 90 minutes before bedtime helps people to fall asleep quicker and get better quality sleep. While you’d think the water is warming you up, in fact it’s increasing blood circulation and allowing your inner core to cool down. As our body temperature drops at night, that’s a signal to our bodies that it’s time for bed. The other thing to watch is that their bedroom isn’t too warm. If you’ve been stoking up the heating and the festive fire, and cooking mince pies all day, you might have increased temperatures in the house. A cooler room will make your child sleep more comfortably and will mean they’re less likely to wake up in the night.
Using nature to help your child feel sleepy is another good way to prepare them for bed. Scientific studies have found that warm milk before bed can improve sleep quality and help you fall asleep more easily. It’s down to the amino acid Tryptophan in milk which helps produce serotonin and melatonin. Sleep Well milk is suitable for all the family (not infants under 12 months). Not only does it contain rich Jersey milk, but it also contains valerian which has been helping people relax and sleep for centuries. It comes in chocolate and vanilla flavours and is a great bedtime treat. And there’s an oat variety for those who can’t drink milk.
Routine is one thing that usually goes out of the window at Christmas time. But don’t let your kids go to bed too late or they’ll get overtired and struggle to get to sleep. If you’re away from home take favourite soft toys and pillows, maybe even their duvet, if you think it will help them settle. Don’t keep giving in to demands to stay up, just because it’s Christmas. You won’t be doing them any favours.
Reading them a story – a calm one – or letting them listen to an audio book or some music, is a great way to take their minds off the impending excitement and help them feel drowsy.
If they’re showing no signs of settling, lie down with them and just do nothing but breathe. They’ll benefit from having you close to them and feeling your relaxing heartbeat and breathing. Let’s face it, you could probably do with the lie-down anyway. Just don’t fall asleep and miss that Christmas special you wanted to watch live!
Remember that some little ones might be a bit anxious about the thought of this big bearded man coming into their house late at night, especially if you’ve been telling them he doesn’t give naughty children presents. If you think about it, it could be a pretty scary prospect. As adults we’d be dialling the emergency services (especially if he was helping himself to our mince pies and Baileys!). So be careful you’re not using Santa as a threat and raising their anxiety levels rather than making Christmas eve fun.
Wishing you and your family a very happy and relaxing Christmas from all of us at Sleep Well HQ
We hope you get your kids to sleep on Christmas Eve. If you found this post useful, check out our top Christmas sleep tips for grown ups here.